Artist, entrepreneur, philanthropist, globetrotter, Didier Guillon is an iconoclast. The founder of the Swiss cosmetics flagship, Valmont, has built a luxury group with a unique DNA by distilling art everywhere. Lately, the businessman has developed a new concept by transforming his residences into an arty holiday resort for his customers and loyal customers. Itinerary of a born epicurean.
To tell the story Didier Guillon, beyond the many portraits that have been devoted to him in the press, we must follow in his footsteps. In Venice, Lausanne, Paris, Tokyo, Manhattan or Hydra, the president and artistic director of the Valmont Group always looks at the world with new eyes. A sunset, a scene from everyday life, a cover of the New York Times, everything inspires him. “Have you been to Hydra? You must have seen Hydra once in your life! ”, he launches as an invitation to follow him in Greece. We then slip into the interstices of our overbooked diary. Didier Guillon is impatient for one thing: to capture the reaction of his guests upon their arrival at the port of the Saronic island…a breathtaking spectacle! As the river shuttle approaches the pier, one is struck by the beauty of the site, by its colorful houses clinging to the hillside, by the perfect aesthetics of the facades and the pink marble floors matching the stalls. A pictorial vision! “Welcome to Hydra, the anti-Mykonos! A place where successive generations of painters, sculptors, poets, artists. Singer Leonard Cohen was one of his most familiar faces.”, he likes to share.
Here, the entrepreneur at the head of the most luxurious Swiss cosmetics group, Valmont, found the best office to run the business. Today, he mainly chairs the group’s Foundation while Sophie Guillon, his ex-wife, holds the helm of the company. Didier Guillon does not hide his pleasure in savoring these moments of artistic retreat while gently preparing for the transition. Coming from a large French family, he was immersed throughout his childhood in a universe of aesthetes where a taste for the rare and the beautiful reigned. His father, co-founder of Mustela milk and a great art lover, like his maternal great-great-grandfather, Charles Sedelmeyer, notorious art dealer from the end of the 19th , as well as the famous sculptor Stanislas Lami, paternal great-grandfather, have shaped its history. Among his ancestors, there is also a filiation with General de Gaulle. But Didier Guillon only mentions his prestigious pedigree if you insist… The man is not the type to display his medals and other family jewels. He wished very early on to assert himself, to win the esteem of those close to him through his own feats of arms.
From left to right, Didier Guillon , Sophie Vann-Guillon, Capucine, Maxence and Valentine Guillon @ Valmont And then, it could not be otherwise for this asserted sixty-eighter. Inheriting, living in comfort: “too easy! “, he objects. The best way to be “a man” was to undertake in turn. At the end of the seventies, after studying law at the faculty of Nanterre (92), the son of a good family decides to join forces with a comrade to launch his first company ” Happy Birth”. The concept ? Offer gift boxes to young mothers to enhance their shopping experience. Didier Guillon manages to convince premium brands such as Nestlé or Procter & Gamble to collaborate in order to associate their brands with a key moment in life, maternity. Unstoppable to boost sales and build loyalty. A very formative first step for the twenty-something. Also remunerative. The turning point in his career is coming soon. His father invites him to try his hand at the Swiss school, there business well done can be the source of empires. He understands that he must move up a gear.
End 80, he is very interested in the brand Valmont, its ambition is to make it a flagship of Swiss cosmetics. A priesthood because there is everything to build: the identity of the label, the recruitment of white coats, the creation of a supply chain, the distribution and communication strategy… Because for the time being, this name remains associated with La Clinique Valmont, a renowned medical establishment born in 740. Founded by Doctor Henri Auguste Widmer, a doctor open to the most innovative practices and a great lover of art, the address based in Montreux welcomes, in its early days, patients suffering from disorders of digestion, nutrition and neurasthenia. Over the years, she specialized in medicine and cosmetic surgery, becoming The place to be celebrities at the like Coco Chanel, Louis Aragon, Claudia Cardinale or Placido Domingo. Everyone rushes to maintain their youth capital and enjoy the pure air of the Alpine pastures. Didier Guillon wants to develop a new entity because he feels there is a niche to take in luxury cosmetology.
Didier Guillon: “We didn’t want to fall into this cliché of the pretty woman on glossy paper to be the face of Valmont. From the outset we wanted to communicate differently.”
He hears have your hands free by buying the brand Valmont, independently of the Clinic. This great meticulous also wants to allow himself the time to bring out ” a solid, credible and innovative group”. An assumed choice, difficult at times for this man in a hurry, since it is a question of adjusting his pace to that of science and research. Another world. The businessman assisted by his wife Sophie Guillon, a former employee of Sanofi Beauté and Yves Saint Laurent, applies himself to studying cellulotherapy in all its complexity alongside biologists and handpicked Swiss cosmetologists to enter the market with a range of unique products. Using a “secret defense” extraction technique, Valmont has managed to collect intact two molecules with remarkable anti-aging properties: the DNA and RNA they take from the very heart of the cell. In this way, the products will be enriched with active ingredients with tenfold regenerative properties. They also include water from the glaciers in the composition of the creams, drawn from 2 000 meters above sea level in the canton of Valais, and the milt of wild salmon from Canada. Ingredients whose many benefits they observe.
The formulation of the “Prime Renewing Pack” facial treatments comes to concretize these years of effort. Valmont comes out of confidentiality, killing two birds with one stone by signing one of its biggest best-sellers to date. The chemistry between the couple also contributes to establishing this newcomer in a niche sector. Mean by that, small microcosm where the creams of 01 ml run out at 490 euros per unit, entry level. In the name of the exclusivity and proven effectiveness of its essences, Didier Guillon wants to go even further than its competitors. For him, “Valmont is a showcase that must be sold in showcases” such as Le Bon Marché, Galeries Lafayette , Harrods in London or Bongénie in Switzerland. And then the claw is well worth the business class. So a partnership with the airline Swiss Air was sealed for ten years: “It was above all strategic, we were touching a clientele very sensitive to their lifestyle and who had a strong power of prescription ”, confides the entrepreneur.
Elixir the Quintessence of the Glaciers © Valmont From one robbery to another and from one department store to another, the -by-ear does its job. “Valmont is the pledge of visible effectiveness: when you start using our cosmetics, it shows, when you stop, it also shows… Consequently, trust is created very quickly between the customer and her cream, and that is priceless! Our loyalty rate is exceptional. ”, welcomes Sophie Guillon . Very quickly, the palaces are interested in the brand they fit in their golden walls, and above all… well frequented. From Le Meurice in Paris, to Les Airelles in Courchevel, to the Plaza Athénée in New York, via Constance Halaveli at Maldives, Valmont enters the elite of the international hotel industry never to leave it. It must be said that the label cultivates the same codes as these exceptional addresses: art, hushed design, refinement and the cult of the customer experience.
Didier Guillon, the iconoclast, wished to transcribe his love of art in the universe of Valmont. He becomes the conductor of an instinctive dialogue between these two sides of the same coin in his eyes, through the motto of the company: “When Art meets Beauty », (when art meets beauty). While Sophie, the scientist, experiments, coordinates the development of products, sketches concepts for him and works the material to shape pots that he wants to present as works of art. He is inspired, for example, by Murano glass, which he reproduces in the form of miniature masks in boxes and fragrances. An approach as natural as differentiating for the company which takes the opposite view of the market by refusing to resort to a muse. “ We didn’t want to fall into this cliché of the pretty woman on glossy paper to be the face of Valmont. From the outset, we wanted to communicate differently. “, underlines the latter.
This great lover of Serenissima is bubbling with ideas and feels like taking a step, that of acquiring a space to fully express oneself. Venice, as a matter of course, will house the paintings, sculptures, drawings from his collection and those he sketches. But, even more, he wants to accelerate in his patronage by highlighting artists who touch him. Thus, he decided to create a new pillar within the group by launching the Valmont Foundation in 2022. The captain of industry offers himself a floor of the Palazzo Bonvicini in Venice, a dream that consecrates his artistic freedom. The company can afford it thanks to exponential growth during almost thirty years of existence. Alone or surrounded by a collective of artists, he made Venice the starting point for traveling exhibitions in Maisons Valmont (Munich, Paris, Hong Kong, etc.), in the brand’s spas or in prestigious galleries such as Hydra or Berlin. The man often revisits ancient myths and tales: “ Apparently simple stories, but which contain different levels of reading whose interpretations find resonance in contemporary times. ”.
Didier Guillon alongside his son Maxence called to take over the Valmont Foundation On the pretext of allegories like Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, Janus or Hansel and Gretchel, Didier Guillon challenges his audience on the quest for oneself, on the need to find one’s way as an adult in metropolises in perpetual movement, but also on the need to reconnect with one’s humanity. The ‘philanthropreneur’ is also keen to design exhibitions exclusively in recyclable materials and to donate funds to charities. The Fondation Valmont indeed aims to be inclusive and socially responsible. Since this summer, this generosity has taken yet another form, that of extending its galaxy to hospitality. Hydra, precisely, where the Guillon family owns a property, has now become a real holiday resort open to customers of the brand as well as to partners, whether they are artists, hoteliers, chefs….
During a stay offered by the brand, the faithful are invited to lead the life of an aesthete between discovery of the terroir, gastronomic pleasures, cultural visits and Valmont spa-style treatments. All immersed in the works of art that adorn the family home. It’s a real turnkey trip that awaits these guests welcomed by a butler with great care . Behind this unique concept, the desire to establish a relationship other than through the product. Because luxury is above all emotion for the instigators, it finds its full expression in this quintessential experience.
Greece, Switzerland, Italy, Spain: Didier, the painter, the sculptor and photographer at times, also pursues the objective of bringing its community closer to its traveling exhibitions, the Valmont residences becoming the epicenter of an artistic circuit. But not only. The patriarch has laid the foundations of a new pillar of his cosmetics empire with a view to passing the torch to his three children, Capucine, Maxence and Valentine. Called soon to exercise a more operational role alongside their mother, Sophie Guillon, the rising generation has the challenge of perpetuating the unique DNA of the group.
After having succeeded in starting a business as a couple , the future ‘retiree’ is working to prepare the next generation. And it is from Venice, of course, that he will follow the first steps of his elders from a distance. The city will become his full-time residence this winter.
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